I don’t remember when I first became aware of the SETI Institute. I have a feeling it was when I was in college in the early 80s. One of my suite-mates was an engineering major and had an interest in astronomy. He could have told me about them. Or it might have been via my older brother, who is an aeronautical engineer. The point is, I’ve been interested in what the SETI Institute has been doing for a long time. When I decided to embark on the journey that is A Life’s Work, it didn’t take long for me to think of including someone at SETI. The question was who?
I went to their website and discovered that Jill Tarter was in many ways the spokesperson for the SETI Institute, so she seemed to be the logical choice. It didn’t hurt that she was the basis for the Ellie Arroway character in the Carl Sagan sf novel Contact (Sagan and Tarter were colleagues and friends) and that the book was made into a film starring Jodie Foster and directed by Robert Zemeckis. (Mr. Zemeckis, if you’re reading this, I’d like to talk to you about using a snippet of your fine film.) I went to my local library and checked out Looking for Life in the Universe by Ellen Jackson, a book for young readers about Jill Tarter. The narrative of the book, and the fact that Tarter participated in a book written to excite pre-teens about science, told me something about her. She was perfect for the film. But would she participate?
You know the answer to that; I am forever grateful for her generosity.